TED Conversations

Casey Kitchel


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When fighting for rights, which is tougher: a battle against an oppressive government, or a battle against an oppressive society?

Manal al-Sharif opens her TED talk by asking the audience a question.

“You know that people all over the world fight for their freedom, fight for their rights. Some battle oppressive governments. Others battle oppressive societies.” And then she asks, “which battle do you think is harder?”

Fellow TEDers, which do you think is a tougher battle? And why?

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    Jun 28 2013: Repressive regimes come and go, as tyrants rise and fall. On the whole, societies either revolt against their repressive governments or they empower them. But when a repressive regime is overthrown, the replacement may be just as ruthless (e.g., Louis XVI vs. Robespierre, Nicholas II vs. Lenin, Batista vs. Castro, the Shah vs. the Ayotollah, etc.). The governments of post-Hussein Iraq and post-Gaddafi Libya, among others, have their work cut out for them, if they don’t wish to repeat history. And what will become of Saudi Arabia if the House of Saud ever loses its grip, or of North Korea when that bizarre dynastic Communist dictatorship finally falls?

    Repressive societies, on the other hand, don’t need the support of their governments for their intolerance and injustices. Here we find the usual culprits of religion and ethnicity, as well as class distinction being at the center of the repression. And in many cases, those who hold power do not see themselves as repressing the powerless. Where a despot no doubt realizes how tenuous his control may be, societies are often indifferent, if not completely apathetic to the inequities felt, and sometimes voiced by minorities within their ranks. And it is this attitude of denial that makes societal change so daunting.
  • Jun 29 2013: It's easier to battle "them" than it is to battle "us".
  • Jun 27 2013: I think that one is not tougher than the other, if and only because, the two are inherently intertwined. Is there ever an oppressive society that does not so some degree have an oppressive government. Equally does not an oppressive government create through enforcement and selective authoritarian institutions / people propaganda and thus create oppressive societies.

    What I think is hardest, is not what most people would see as hard. That being, that a right that is taken away after years of having it, is probably the hardest to regain, if ever at all. And there recently have been many examples of that in in recent years in many a democracy.

    An example. The UK used, note, I say used, to have the law that it seeded to many other places, that if you were tried and acquitted, you could not be tried for the same crime twice. A law that had been around for about 1000 years. The removal of that law went hardly unnoticed in the UK, how hard will people have to fight to get it back...

    As for America and many of it's laws that have been removed / superseded due to certain wonderfully ironic titled 'patriot' act(s). Will those freedoms ever come back?
  • Jul 1 2013: To put it simply, society. Because as social creatures our society helps define us and forms a network within which we are comfortable, and to start shaking that up divides the population. Whereas a oppressive government often vitalizes reformation movements to turn them into popular movements.
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    Jun 29 2013: I'd say it's tougher to fight a Koch funded shadow government(ALEC) supported by a judicial Junta (SCOTUS).
  • Jun 29 2013: I think the difference between fighting an oppressive government and an oppressive society is mainly down to how long it takes to achieve victory over them. Oppressive governments can be defeated within a person's lifetime, or the frame of a few lifetimes. Oppressive societies take generations to overcome, and can defy even the most highly organized forms of opposition because of that.

    Also, the period during which old behaviors still have power is greater under an oppressive society than an oppressive government. New ways of thinking have to be taught, they don't just arrive out of thin air. Unfortunately, we tend to fall back easily onto the readily perceived points of bias, which form the basis of oppressive society. The kind of universal education required to prevent that doesn't just arrive upon the defeat of an oppressive society. Until it can be developed many amongst the new generations are likely, ironically, to embrace the old instead of the new.

    Oddly, oppressive societies probably suffer the fatal aspects of their fall, relative to their lifetimes in comparison to those of oppressive governments, about as quickly as oppressive governments do. It's just that oppressive governments fall with the work of a shorter history of defiance, fewer generations of nameless people are ground under opposing them. To fight an oppressive society it takes many more people who stand up and are willing to watch their work seemingly go nowhere.
  • Jun 27 2013: I think it's easy to become rebellious against an oppressive government than it is to become defiant against the pressure of society.
    The former makes you a person who tries to retrieve the sense of justice, the latter makes you an 'idiot' or an official ‘outsider’—quite often, if you ask me.

    'God, peer pressure….!'

    Although the context of it is slightly different from what we’re talking about here, even among our peers, we get careful about challenging their pressure.

    Surely not an easy task with loneliness.
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    Jun 23 2013: It does not matter who is the oppressor.

    What prevents us from standing against the oppressor ....FEAR

    Fear to loose...

    When one is fearless, oppressor has no purcahse on you, you are their toughest opponent.

    They have the power to destroy you , you have the power to show them and the world and make them understand that they are wrong and unjust.

    Battle is won and that too permanently if that brings change of heart in oppressor whether its a governement or a society , it does not matter who is the oppressor.
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      Jun 23 2013: Nice comment Adesh. Have you ever had to fight for your beliefs or your rights? If so, please share.
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        Jun 24 2013: In country like India we always have to fight for our beliefs as well as for our right
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    Jul 6 2013: The battle against oppressive societies are tougher; in oppressive societies the victims are usually a part or group that is weak. The oppression may not even be seen as oppression because of the tyranny of the majority. In nations where women are oppressed for example, a change of government offers no hope if it is just a transfer of power to a custodian of the old order.
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    Jul 2 2013: In my opinion a battle against oppressive society is more tougher than fighting against government for your rights because It is the society that is more closer to you, It can either encourage or discourage your fight.
    Continuous motivation and a strong inspiration are two essential things before you start your fight for your rights, which you can get them easily from your nearby society.

    If your society is cooperative you may finally win your battle, but if it doesn't promotes you you will feel tired soon and that's all it takes to lose a battle.
  • Jun 30 2013: The short answer from me is: Oppressive society. The argument is that if we did not have the multitude of tendencies and actions that could collectively be called oppressive, we would probably not have as many people in governmental leadership positions exhibiting these same attributes.
  • Jun 29 2013: I think you have your answer Casey. Most societies are formed around religion, and as such have the ability to become very oppresive. Governments have been formed around common sense, and the rights of the people, but can easily become corrupted and the history rewritten so that it looks like the religion was always in charge. This is the case for the U.S. The moral majority has taken control of the republican party, and Barry Goldwaters nightmare has come true.
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      Jun 29 2013: Just remember Tim, they, (The moral majority) (???) are, first of all (not moral ) as i'm sure you've noticed. Secondly they are simply the "pigeons", (water boys) who will be crushed and discarded by the real power brokers when they have outlived their usefulness. The entire facade of "conservatism" is a (racket), Want proof? Look at the "denotation" in the dictionary, and a few "academic" descriptions of the meaning, then ask someone who identifies themselves as a conservative. You will find that most have no idea what they even stand for. It's true for the reality of "Capitalism" most conservatives have no idea what that means, no clue about the reality, and mechanisms of capitalism. If they actually understood the realities of rampant, predatory unrestrained capitalism, they would probably jump off a cliff in horror. These people have been brainwashed. and the rest are simply creatures of self indulgence who have lost whatever humanity, or compassion they may once have had. It doesn't mean that millions are not sincere, or even wonderful people, They're just really messed up, and confused. The real liars, thieves, torturers, murders, are a different kettle of fish all together.
      • Jun 30 2013: I agree Peter, I come from a very conservative democratic family, old time conservative, not new. I always found myself siding with the old time republicans on business but I was very liberal when it came to erring on the side of helping my fellow man. I am apalled that the new republicans would rather force someone to have a child, then refuse to help them out. Just doesn't make sense to hurt those really in need to weed out the bad.
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    Jun 27 2013: Uniqea stated: "...I dont believe everyone who doesnt believe in religion is bad or immoral. But I do have the morals, values, and ethics that I learned while studying religions, and I do believe in a higher power which keeps me in line and it helps me keep those morals..."

    This is good for you Uniqea. If you need this higher power to keep yourself in line it is good for you to remain attached to it. It works for you.

    However. I am a distinctly moral person and do it without any help from any higher power. To me this is proof the real action necessary to be moral and upright in the world is somehow innate within all healthy human beings. No higher power is necessary. If you remove all the writings relating to a higher power from many of the religious books, what you are left with is a fine, secular description of what is required for all human beings to live together in harmony. Further: it is good guidance for being a moral human being. A higher power is not necessary to enforce this upon humanity. Those who turn away from such religious influence discover this fact as they grow and become decent secular human beings.

    Many of the laws we follow in the US and many other modern countries were, in fact, the Laws developed and instituted in the Nation of Babylon, many centuries ago. Their laws, for the most part, were alienated from their religious beliefs.

    "Hammurabi was a king of Babylon and was best known for his 282 laws some of which we still use today. The oldest-known legal code, even older than the Ten Commandments, is credited to Hammurabi.
    He lived from 1818 B.C. to 1750 B.C. "

    Many of the ten commandments are based on these laws. Isn't that interesting?

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      Jun 29 2013: Great comment John. People who do not believe in god, are not necessarily anti god , or bad people, in fact many agnostics I've met were "some" of the most moral people I know. I would say to all my brothers and sisters who are believers in some god. Look at (your concept of god). Think of that entity as a friend. (theoretically) Understand that entity may be your friend, but at the same time wouldn't that god also have a relationship with all other human beings from a different angle, and perspective? It's not simply 2 sides to a coin but 7,000,000,000 sides 1 for every human on the planet. One person's infidel, is another's saint. Jihad, is a concept, "NOT A PHYSICAL BATTLE PLAN". Cristian's have the same concept from a different perspective. When you grow older as I have, if you've read and studied and had lots of great cups of coffee or tea with intelligent people, an amazing thing happens. "WISDOM" it teaches you that onward christian soldier doesn't mean killing infidels, it means go within yourself, inside your deepest darkest parts of your soul and rid yourself of all that is impure and against health, piety, and compassion. "That is Jihad" it happens inside your mind, inside your being, your soul, if you wish. He that kills, kills all of humanity, he that saves a life saves all humanity. Everybody just mellow out for Pete's sake. "Have a cup of tea."
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        Jun 30 2013: Thank you Peter.

        I'm 62. While I have not dined with billionaires I have with Millionaires.I've had no knowledge imparted my way that was new or insightful. I have shared thoughts with Priests and Rabbi's. I have read every religious book that is considered meaningful. And yes, I do drink tea.

        If the life you save is that of an evil person you have allowed evil to endure, along with it's impact on humanity.

        Any form of Jihad, or righteous action of God, in my opinion is nothing more but the workings of the minds of men. There is nothing saintly nor holy about it. There are two paths towards peace for mankind to take on this planet:
        1. Peace through Communication
        2. Peace through superior fire power.

        Given man's record, I'm putting my money on option two. When we have rid our minds of the fantasy's of men, perhaps we may find peace. Until then, piety, compassion and impure thoughts will be with us for a long time. We can regulate them and corral them to some degree, not necessarily all.

        The world is partitioned into separate social and cultural divisions. When we have eradicated these barriers, we may enjoin with one another to create a one world, Class I civilization. Right now we are Class zero and stand on the threshold of extinction by way of our technologies. We've loads of work ahead of us.

        We can follow the ways of ancient people who never shared our body of Knowledge and wisdom or we can put it aside and trust in the wisdom and Knowledge we have at our disposal.

        Everyone appears mellow to me. Did I miss something?
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          Jun 30 2013: You're absolutely right John. I get really pissed when someone starts to force their religious opinion on me, particularly when, someone has been told politely on many occasions that i'm not interested. What I meant in my last reply was that the concept of Jihad isn't exclusive to islam. It goes way back in human history. It's a concept that began long before so called modern religious practices, before Mohamed, Jesus, Buddha or Solomon. It's much the same process a world class athlete goes through, before they climb Everest, or win the decathlon. What I mean is that these guys running around talking about killing infidels,don't know the first thing about the concept. They just pervert it to suit their own fantasie of hate and revenge or what ever else makes them think it's allright to murder people. I'm not one to pussy foot around with thugs, and murderers. I say drop em where they stand when it's perfectly obvious they're trying to kill you. I simply feel Americans, and these fundamentalist wackos are way to trigger happy. There are so many ways to disarm these nut jobs, without starting wars, and dropping bombs. I have never had a problem with a Spiritually /Religiously oriented person as long as they respect my personal space and my view. Live and let live. I've know many a deeply spiritual person who lived dignified pious lives without ever advocating hate, violence, or anti agnostic, anti social behavior. We used to call it wisdom, dignity compassion and being civilized , being and adult.
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    Jun 24 2013: I would like to add,
    that it depends in which country we live in ....... but i think that it would be tough to fight against society in country like SAUDI ARABIA , INDIA, CHINA and many more .................. but in country like America it would be tough to fight with Government .... hope you all will understand what i said.
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      Jun 26 2013: Which situation would you prefer? Strong government, *relatively* free of corruption and oppression or a weaker government, with more corruption and oppression in the government and society? There used to be another aphorism in Russia: "severity of Russian laws is compensated by the lack of their enforcement."
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    Jun 23 2013: Is one really worse than the other? I also listened to this talk and pondered over this question. Trying to imagine myself fighting for my beliefs seems like it would be hard whether my battle was against government or society, especially government and society. It must especially be hard when you are lacking support from others. Or when your family is at risk for your beliefs. I've never been put in this type of situation yet but I can only imagine that either battle is hard regardless of who it is against.
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    Jun 19 2013: Oppressive society. Because you have no clue who is your enemy.
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      Jun 23 2013: In order to be oppressive, wouldn't members of the oppressive society have to interact with us in some fashion, revealing their identity?
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        Jun 23 2013: Yes they have to and they do. But these oppressions come veiled as ideas of family/social honor, a stereotypical role model, political ideologies like nationalism, peer pressure to conform and social memes. In such a society a parent, partner, religious leader can be the oppressor.
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          Jun 23 2013: Indeed.

          I wonder if there is some manner to measure the distinctive influences within these societies? We can perceive the incidental affects by merely observing. How could we develop a scale of measure and compare the Government vs. society, Oppressiveness variable?

          Could the number of citizens in the Prison system be an indicator? Government controls the prisons but not all prisoners are there due to collisions with the government. Most are there due to social trespasses.

          Another question: Are a countries Laws a true indicator of the wishes of a Society?
  • Jun 18 2013: Definitely an oppressive society. As a Pakistani, I usually have to deal with this. Fortunately, my family and friends are very supporting and allow me to drive, be educated and even be friends with boys, but I know that there are people who aren't so lucky.
    Fighting against the government is easy. They don't watch you all the time. A society is around you all the time and judge you all the time.
  • Jun 18 2013: A oppressive society is much harder. To be in a society where everyone is screaming freedom, but only certain groups of beliefs are able to publicly share their opinions and beliefs is sickening. Once that other group of people try to speak their beliefs they are sued or told to be quiet or immediately accused of being the oppressor.
    Its a larger crowd to fight against, its a crowd who doesn't care about professionalism because they aren't under that kind of spot light.
    I would say a oppressed society is harder to speak to. Americans are so swooped up in their own personal crap that they don't want to believe the truths, they want to keep being fed lies as long as it will keep them happy and care free.
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      Jun 23 2013: Is it just "Americans" who are full of crap? Why not other countries and societies? Why just Americans?
      • Jun 24 2013: No, its other countries. But America is the only one I know of personally because I live here, I dont or have never lived in another country to know how the people are over there, so that was my example.
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          Jun 24 2013: So, how can you attempt to compare us to others? Most people I know abhor lies and earnestly desire to know the truth. It's the "fool me once; shame on me: fool me twice: shame on you" way of looking at life that give rise to the idea we like being fooled.

          The whole idea of "Oppression" is to force people to live and behave in a certain way. We could all stand up and protest but the blunt truth is: we will be arrested and go to jail. What mother or father can afford to be separated from their children in such a way?

          Yes. American are oppressed, but it doesn't necessarily follow that we enjoy it or are content with the situation.
      • Jun 24 2013: I don't see how i was making a comparison, I was just using Americans as an example. But an example on how the american society oppress people would be Christianity. Christians are ridiculed and oppressed, their religion calls them to spread the word of God, not to influence but to inform. Society is always trying to sue other parents and schools for providing info or even speaking of God, around the holidays it is no longer appropriate to say merry Christmas, and laws are being passed that demean christian values, traditions, and practices i.e. marriage.

        I dont see where you thought I was comparing America to any other country, I was simply answering the question of is the battle tougher against an oppressive society or government and america was my example. But my honest opinion, compared to other countries, we're a few amended rights from being no different.

        Just because you and the few like minded people you surround yourself with feel oppressed doesn't mean everyone in america feels that way. There are some people who are happy rights are being taken away, they feel safe, some people want more rights taken away from other groups of people, we still have racism here, we have people who are pro abortion and others who are pro life, we have people that believe certain classes in society should have more rights than others, we have people who believe gays should be brainwashed straight, its some people who want all immigrants to go back to their countries. And some people are just indifferent to it all. To say our society can't be oppressive is absurd, I mean, if that's what you're saying...
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          Jun 24 2013: I was in a bad situation in Virginia one day in my life. It was Christians who helped me out. I didn't see anyone else trying to help.

          I've been in many bad situations in my life, always, it was Christians who were willing to help. No one else was willing. Now, we have Atheist churches. At last there is some competition for doing good in the world.

          I hear how Christians are brutalizing all of society everyday, yet, I never see it myself. I sometimes wonder if I'm blind? I'm not a Christian and doubt I could ever be one.

          I know some of them can be a pain in the behind but why throw the dog out with the wash-water?

          I understand that you don't see the comparison I was alluding to Ms. Monie. It is more of an inference in your writing, rather than an outright testament in what you said.

          Think of it this way. How do you know that sugar is sweet unless you have bitter to compare it to?

          You said: "Americans are so swooped up in their own personal crap that they don't want to believe the truths, they want to keep being fed lies as long as it will keep them happy and care free."

          I noticed that the word Americans was plural, indicating all Americans or at least a whole bunch of them. I also notice that the mental attribute you were attaching to them was not good one:

          "...swooped up in their own personal crap...", "they don't want to believe the truths, they want to keep being fed lies as long as it will keep them happy and care free..."

          It's not a good description of a harmonic society. The comparison appears almost immediately as you compare good to bad. "Good" was not necessarily mentioned but, "inferred" by contrast.

          It just kinda jumped out at me as I read your comment. So that is how it appeared to me that you were making a comparison. :)
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          Jun 26 2013: Re: "Americans are so swooped up in their own personal crap that they don't want to believe the truths, they want to keep being fed lies as long as it will keep them happy and care free."

          Does it apply to "other Americans" or to you as well? How do you know that information on which you base your statement is not a lie? You speak of "society" as of "them". Aren't you a part of "society"?

          Re: "laws are being passed that demean christian values, traditions, and practices i.e. marriage." Marriage is not exclusively Christian practice. Non-Christians marry as well. Every culture has its own traditions around marriage. It would be absurd to force everyone marry "Christian way". Nobody forces Christians to marry same-sex partners or force the Church to conduct same-sex weddings. So, why do Christians feel compelled to dictate how and whom to marry to non-Christians?

          How do you interpret the following quote from New Testament:
          "Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church."
          Do you think, this Christian tradition needs to be kept (even within the Church)?

          To whom does this passage apply - to others or to ourselves?
          "“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye."

          Well, actually, to say "you hypocrite" to another person is hypocrisy and judging. Something to think about.
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          Jun 26 2013: Arkady, are these sorts of assumptions/claims not practically always about "the (unenlightened) Other?"
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          Jun 27 2013: Uniqea, I understand the utter despair of seeing a world you grew up in desegregate around you, being ridiculed for enjoying things you were brought up to believe. It's a form of heartbreak, especially if that world appeared full of love, affection and joy.

          It was the society I was raised up in when I was a child. During a few brief years as a young man, not long returned the War in Vietnam, there was a time of great salvation in the whole country of the United States of America. It was a time when it appeared the whole country was turning back towards it's religious, christian roots. The Out-Law-moteorcycle gangs were converted to Christianity. It was a time when John Leneon was singing spirituous songs and the whole word appeared long for peace on earth.

          It all fell apart in the 80's. Religion in schools was questioned heavily and the secular movement came in full force. It was the beginning of the decline for religious zealotry.

          I understand it is only natural for someone to want to preserve that which felt good in their lives. But, times change. We live in progressive times and we are looking for solutions that are not so sacredly defined. We don't wont to wait for a solution we want to build one ourselves. It is only natural to want these things also. To those of us who see a increase in secularism, it is just as joyful and comfortable as it is for those who live a different way.

          Living without a faith in the hereafter or a godlike being is not something to be afraid of. It just taking responsibility for your own actions. We are still human with human emotions like love and affection and an Ernest desire to help others.

          Yes, I miss Christmas, not the sacredness of that day; I miss the joy and family gatherings associated with that day. We still practice Christmas but we don't use the religious trappings. It has no religious meaning to me. I still like to see people smile and be happy.
      • Jun 27 2013: This country was founded and fought for on the basis of religious freedoms. The laws placed and the rights given are on the basis of religion. You take out our foundation, and now we have a mess of corruption and devil worshiping propaganda all over the place. Smh. You can't just pull out a bunch of blocks at the bottom of the tower and expect the tower to remain standing.
        I do not believe everything I hear regarding religion, i do not believe everything in the Bible or any religious book is entirely true. I dont believe that I should just wait around for God for things to happen, or that I can do wrong all day and ask for forgiveness later, its unrealistic. I am accountable for my own actions. I dont believe everyone who doesnt believe in religion is bad or immoral. But I do have the morals, values, and ethics that I learned while studying religions, and I do believe in a higher power which keeps me in line and it helps me keep those morals. I feel that everyone should have that, and they dont, and they're being shielded away from it. The government can't teach morals, and Christians are ridiculed and ignored for doing so, other people are labelled paranoid conspiracy theorists.
        Every other country keeps their religion(s) in the positive light, we dont, we celebrate removing religion from things... We celebrate removing morality from our lives, everything is about sex and drugs and gluttony and now we praise satanic symbols in our media. Our government is full of sociopaths, our military and police is full of psychopaths, we have the most incarcerated people in the world, our country is going straight to hell, you dont see that?
        It's not about being against change, Im all for change, we don't need to go back to killing people in the name of God, but we have no guidance for our behaviors as a whole.
  • Jul 13 2013: Both the same.

    Many tell me 'there is nothing you can do' governments will always win and abuse their power. So stick your head in the sand do nothing just suck it up.

    Personally I hate this attitude. A complaint is a way of making things better for all.

    We need a complaints process that is allowed to Enforce their own Act. Australia's Human Rights process cannot Enforce its own Disability Discrimination Act 1992 as it is mediation only. Just about no one bothers to do a HR complaint anymore because. Council's - complaints process is just as dismal, as the supposed watchdog is just an excusionist .

    People are afraid to support + join those trying for better rights as they get retribution, payback, blacklisted etc.

    Sad and counterproductive system run by a few with vested interests.

    We'd be better going back to a time when the Elders of the village/community all sat down and heard complaints and made a joint decision.
  • Jul 13 2013: If we are ever going to get to the bottom of real issues, we need to be able to go much deeper than this.

    Society is actually grown, not built. We cannot simply stack independent blocks on top of or around each other in an array and say that it is truly representative of reality. On the contrary, evolution suggests it is a multi-causal process, and not by any means a linear one.

    Ideologies branch off of each other like roots in the ground, and roots seek out water and nutrients in order to survive. People are no different...for where people feel fed, they will congregate and attempt to flourish. This is a major draw to religion. However, the unchangeable ideologies and stories contained within their scriptures presents a naturally fractal pattern from developing, and intellectual evolution ceases to exist because the stories are merely repeated over and over again, while those that follow them continue to expect a different result by repeating them even more.

    People will fight as long as they feel threatened. It's a primal instinct, and it will cause them to increase in size, volume, and motion, just as any threatened animal does. So, at the core of feeling threatened is fear, but there are many types of fear.

    A few fears readily evident by the tunnel vision that is mimicked by the pattern of the "straight and narrow" are these:

    1. The Fear of God
    2. The Fear of the Devil
    3. The Fear of Change (which is firmly embedded into the idea of an unchanging and invisible deity, as it is the classic presentation of the flight response).
    ...and ultimately, a society that cannot bring itself to change is subject to the final occluding fear:
    4. The Fear of Things Staying the Same.

    Address fear, and you will address the problems people have with government, for at the end of the day, people simply want to feel as if they truly matter.
  • Jul 6 2013: In my humble opinion, they are essentially one in the same. I believe the real fight against oppression starts with our 'oppressive' human nature that forms CULTURES of oppression.

    The logic; oppressive relationships form oppressive cultures, which develop into oppressive societies which establish oppressive institutions such as 'governments.'

    My logic is from a post-modernist point of view, (give me a case for another one, and I'll consider it.) Governments are 'constructs' of people. We had to collectively agree on what a government's form and function was before we established one, with power to oppress its constituency. Who decided we needed one? Look at the definition of 'govern' and you'll see, its arguably a synonym for 'oppress.'

    Likewise, the constituents, had to agree collectively on what 'society' was before it became so powerful. The definition of society is "a group of humans broadly distinguished from other groups by mutual interests, participation in characteristic relationships, shared institutions, and a common culture."

    Our culture too, was formed by people with mutual interests, participating in characteristic relationships right? One mutual interest was survival, relationships are essential for survival. (Contrary to the myth of 'Independence' propagated by white Western culture) Relationships are oppressive when one individual or group has power over the other by physical force and or by controlling resources needed for survival.

    Look around, relationships commonly involve an imbalance of power. Historically, it was physical dominance of man over woman, so he got to set up the first institutions. Maybe its oil or education now, but its still power, don't be fooled by the 'curtain' of democracy used to hide the great and powerful Oz calling the shots.

    So... until we create truly egalitarian relationships, we will always develop oppressive societies and governments. The oppression to fight is in our nature,the man in the mirror
  • Jul 2 2013: I would say a battle against an oppressive society. The government and laws of a country can only reflect the thinking of society.
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    Jun 28 2013: They are intertwined because the government comes from the people and if society is oppressive the government will be. On the other hand, power can corrupt the most honest people and they can become oppressive governments. Society has to be strong enough to resist corruption from the government. Life is a struggle and we cannot sit back and not take part. Everyone needs to be alert so that oppression can be stamped on if it rears its' ugly head.
  • Jun 27 2013: battle against society will be easy because no one will readily oppose such movements, but history tells that they will be long battles but not so fruitful.
    In case of battle against oppressive government, they will take some time but surely fructify in the course of time.

    Governments[even oppresive ones] are vulnerable to social dynamics or "The Change". Societies can change their way of oppresion with time.
    regarding the refered article, islamic world now need another hero like "kamal pasha" of turkey.
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    Jun 27 2013: Casey, I am from the USA. Not generally known as a oppressive society. I can only guess at the real truths. It would be my opinion that a oppressive government is dependent upon the oppressed to assist in its control. If stories I have heard of Russia during its darkest periods are true, then the government had people (party members) who were stationed at bus stops, depots, etc to report any and all events. Also party members would "spy" on their neighbors and report their actions to the party.

    If I were to use strict definations: A coup can be conducted against a repressive government .... however .... a repressive society would mean that the majority of the society favors the status quo. Thus making the society the tougher battle.

    I can however, be thankful for where I am.

    I wish you well. Bob.
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    Jun 26 2013: I view government in a (socio-mathematical) way sometimes. Our governments are composed of our (beliefs& superstitions) + (our individual participation) + (aggregate advantage) divided by (reality) X (force). Simply put, it means you have to fight for what you want. The milk of human kindness though a real phenomena, is overshadowed by the mad rush for our individual piece of the survival pie. There is a COSMIC SIZED GAP of wealth in the world , particularly in the UNited States between the insanely, absurdly rich, and the middle class. Median income is $40,000. Try living on that in most cities, especially if you have children. The actual poor, which now represents 26% of children in the US, and 40%+ of families are never even discussed, or represented in the corrupt, insipid main stream media, and certainly not in congress. The constant drum beat of (government good), (government bad) glides over the virus attacking us. Government is neither good, nor bad, but a tool of (organization). Currently it has become an insidious tool of repression, and theft of biblical proportions. It has become a growing (neo fascist international conspiracy) to extract trillions of dollars worth of human, and natural resources to enrich the narrowest of corporate elites, criminal cartels, inhumane self serving banks, and their minions in congress. It is an amalgam of high stakes corporate greed and international criminal cartels, who skirt the laws of every nation. We are currently in a headlong rush to corporate feudalism, and extinction. You have to take what you want! They will never give up their power without a vicious fight. "Peaceful resistance will defeat them, but it's gonna hurt." "Peace!"
  • Jun 26 2013: The only difference between an "oppressive government" and an "oppressive society" is that an "oppressive government" is merely a more visible arm of the underlying "oppressive society". Thus, in theory, since the "government" is less than the whole of a "society", the "government" would be easier to fight.
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      Jun 27 2013: Exactly!

      An oppressive society also presents a stronger 'psychological pressure' on its victims.
  • Jun 24 2013: Hi Casey,
    I think in either case, so much is dependent on how the battle is fought - alone, or as a group.

    A single individual fighting against an oppressive society or government, is in a weak position, unless that person has a following of passionate believers (I'm thinking especially of Mandela right now...)

    Freedom Fighters initiate resistance movements, as a group:

    I think the 'harder battle' comes down to support, or lack of it. Someone can feel strongly about a cause, but fighting a battle alone - regardless against whom - is in my opinion the hardest.
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    Jun 23 2013: oppression is indeed very hurting, none would accept it whether from government or from societies, however when it comes from government the only thing that they can give back to you in return on maximum is to put you in jail, but in societies things are more tougher, the prison of government is always better than societies' prison.